The other day, water started gushing from the sidewalk in several spots near my apartment—kind of like an urban geyser. Since Manhattan is not Saratoga Springs, I thought something was probably amiss. Not that passersby cared—they merely walked around the Second Avenue sidewalk spring system. Some jumped over it.
Then the water began pushing through the sidewalk with greater force. Shortly thereafter, five fire trucks and one fire chief SUV screamed to the scene, transforming Second and 55th into the set of Rescue Me. Firemen strode to and fro around the spring system and eventually began circling in the street in front of it. A frenzy of activity commenced, including chopping pavement, pounding a big metal rod into the street and threading a fire hose into the underground labyrinth of aging pipes and infrastructure upon which everything on this island is built. Then the red ConEd truck arrived: the ultimate harbinger of utility doom.
By this point, the Second Avenue Springs had attracted quite the crowd of onlookers. Word quickly spread that the water sprouting forth from the sidewalk was said to have curative powers. Others said that it was the fountain of youth that the Manhattoes (the Native Americans who reportedly sold Manhattan for a couple of MetroCards and a street pretzel) used to bathe in. Soon throngs were rushing to the Springs with empty water bottles, filling them up by the dozens. Finally, folks said, there was a cure for deep vein thrombosis/joint pain/sinus headaches/acne/stress/hair loss/the common cold!
The businesses near the Springs wasted no time: The antiques dealer hurriedly hauled out 20 carpets to display in front of his store; the gelato place started handing out free samples of gelato; the Chinese food place rolled out a dim sum cart. A kid selling “I Drank From the Second Avenue Springs” t-shirts angled for room next to a bearded preacher who cautioned against turning away from the Lord to the Springs. Then a fight broke out between two deli owners over who actually owned the Springs. Donald Trump declared that he intended to purchase the air rights over the gushing water, which brought community activists to the Springs to protest any and all development around this natural wonder.
Suddenly, the water stopped gushing. The Springs just went dry. The firemen high fived each other, another job done—and just in the nick of time because there was a sinkhole on East 38th Street to tend to. The crowd, having got word of the magical earth crater that had revealed itself to Murray Hill, headed south.
It was, in other words, just another Tuesday.